ARENDELLE – With her sociable personality, love of company, and keen political savvy, Anna is the most press-friendly monarch Arendelle has ever had.
In one year she has granted more interviews and done more press events with the Big Three newspapers (The Arendelle Guardian, the Fjord Times, and the Snow Herald) than her predecessors put together.
Naturally, after a week of silence from the palace, Arendelle’s reporters are growing restless and impatient, with editors scratching their heads in puzzlement.
Journalists from the Big Three that are tasked with covering the queen and royal household are known as royal correspondents. They often double as political journalists due to the queen’s executive involvement in the Great Assembly. With quotes drying up and coverage material dwindling, newswomen and men on this prestigious beat are starting to panic, resorting to gossip about who Queen Anna last saw before shutting herself away in Arendelle Castle.
One senior reporter from the Fjord Times made a smarmy joke about Anna’s absence causing Arendellian stocks to fall. Others have interviewed figures in the palace, trying to understand what happened. While Kristoff and Elsa have admitted that Anna is indeed still in Arendelle Castle, they’ve struggled to give a reason for her silence.
She was last seen in public on her daily walk with a beautiful foreign woman, near Vera’s Berg Sweetshop.
The managing director of the Princely House had been summoned to the newsroom of The Arendelle Guardian.
After his meeting with his directors, Kristoff walked a few blocks over to the three-storey, repurposed warehouse on the waterfront, gentle sea breeze blowing at his blonde mop. When his new career as Ice Master had taken off, he’d invested a sum of kroner into renovating The Arendelle Guardian’s newly purchased factory into a press room on the ground floor. The offices for its journalists were on the second floor, with the top level being the residential loft of Chief, the paper’s editor-owner. She also enjoyed the largest office on the second floor with her own door and sea-facing windows. But it wasn’t the real estate that made Chief’s office so special, but rather a secret safe that contained Chief’s passports, secret deeds, and private documents pertaining to the royal family and Arendelle’s nobles and ministers – in a journalist’s hands, they were secrets deadlier than cannons or rifles.
Kristoff strode two steps at a time up the wooden staircase to the second floor. The view opened up before him to reveal several rows of cramped desks at which reporters, editors, and senior writers filed their work, with copy girls and boys – apprentices and future employees of the newsroom – running about and assisting their designated mentor with notes and documents. The vibrant and busy atmosphere reminded Kristoff of his own warehouses and factories, which stretched from Batavia to Rio De Janeiro. He smiled as he passed by the youngsters, returning their shy nods and waves and heading straight to the end of the room, where Chief’s office door was.
“It’s open,” came Chief’s voice.
“What’s up?” asked Kristoff, turning the knob and stepping in. Chief’s office was as messy as ever, with the week’s past paper editions spread across the coffee table and books dumped on the guest chair. Dust danced among the books that lined two flanking bookshelves reaching all the way up to the top of the high ceiling. Chief was sitting at her large desk, staring at the view of the harbour before turning her head. “If this is about Anna – “
“Who else could it be about?” said Chief. “Us creatures of the press are starving. And in such a febrile environment, citizens are hungry for input from Her Majesty.” Her dark eyes narrowed. “Has she opened up to you about what happened?”
Kristoff sighed. “Yes… no. Kind of.” He moved aside the stack of heavy books on the chair across from Chief’s table and sat down. “It had to do with her meeting a Grand Duke, apparently.”
Chief narrowed her eyes. “One of Katina Romanov’s commanders? Why didn’t she tell you or the inner court earlier?”
“Well, she sounded like she wasn’t sure what happened herself,” replied Kristoff, waving off Chief’s offer of some tea on her silver tray. He adjusted his wool collar. “I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a good meeting. When I saw her, she was sullen and dazed. She gave churlish, short replies – very unlike her.”
“So you left her to her thoughts,” prompted Chief sympathetically. Without Kristoff, The Arendelle Guardian might not even have taken off in this kingdom. The Princely House’s success was the newspaper’s success, and Kristoff’s company was the trading house closest to The Arendelle Guardian, unlike the other firms that stuck with the more pro-finance paper, the Fjord Times.
“Yeah,” said Kristoff, unable to resist a chuckle. “When she’s in a bad mood, it’s always best to steer clear unless she tells you she wants your company.”
“Quite.” Chief clasped her hands together, thumbs rubbing against each other. “It would please me to drop by the palace, but I think I’d rather leave Anna to think over whatever happened before she actually goes public. Any quotes from you and Elsa that I can print? I need to feed the machine, royal consort.”
“Shout me lunch, and I’ll give you an interview over some seafood,” laughed Kristoff.
Chief’s dark eyes glinted behind her glasses. “I’m glad you’re not kidding. Let’s head to the Nokk Club.”
Elsa glided into the study of the queen. She knocked in a sequence that only Anna knew. When Anna heard that it was Elsa, she called: “Come in, love.” The Snow Queen opened the door and closed it behind her. “Hey,” greeted her worldly counterpart, her voice tired. Before Elsa could say anything, Anna acknowledged: “I know I’ve been withdrawn over this past week. I’m a bit better now. I’ll speak to the press again and certainly to my officials.”
She rubbed her eyes as she lounged about on her majestic, slender oak chair, with documents, letters, treaties, and edicts lying about on her long table ignored. “I’m exhausted,” she confessed wearily, “but it’s Sora’s unexpected visit to Arendelle that has taxed me more than you can imagine. I can’t get over it. She’s spectacular, amazing, a literal angel, even if she’s a fallen one. But then I remember that she’s batting for the other side. When I think of this, it’s hard for me to leave home.”
She sighed. “I wish Vi was here. She might have handled Sora a bit better. And I’d have an easier time in our parliament, too.”
“Don’t worry about the press,” replied Elsa affectionately, “but in time, you’ll need to speak with Kristoff and Olaf again. And Danny, Uncle, and Alan. All the others, too. You’ve starved everyone of your bright smile and sweet kindness long enough.”
“You’re right, darling.” Anna raised her head and gazed at Elsa lovingly. “I think you’re always right, honestly.”
“You have the weight of the whole kingdom on you,” said Elsa, “and now that Arendelle is now connected to the rest of the globe, the entire world’s heaviness could be said to be on your shoulders.”
“Well, I was handling things alright, even after Harrison extorted from me our Chinese trade privileges. But this encounter with Sora…” Anna shook her head, still not quite daring to believe what had happened a few days ago. “I knew Russia was going to be formidable, but this archon, and the other Grand Dukes, are a mortal threat.”
Elsa walked over and slid onto Anna’s desk, sitting carefreely and looking down at her smiling sister. “That’s why I’m here. You need me to face Sora when Katina inevitably orders her against Arendelle.”
Anna buried her face in her hands. She hated to admit it, but Elsa was right. “Oh, Elsa, that sounds so awful. I’m so horrible to be sending you against the enemy like a soldier.”
“Don’t say that, Anna. You’re my queen and I chose to be here. Besides, I’ve seen for myself the power of the Grand Dukes in Saint Petersburg. I’d like to join Hilde on the front lines should conflict come to our doorstep.” It was accepted among Anna’s inner court that only Elsa and Hilde truly stood a chance against beings of such power as the Grand Dukes.
“This isn’t what I want, but I know that only you have a hope against that mighty angel. I still can’t believe Katina has someone like her on her side. Even worse, Sora doesn’t even seem so bad. She wanted to convince me to accept some of Katina’s terms to avoid war, but I had to refuse.” Anna looked up at Elsa anxiously. “Should I have eaten humble pie and taken Sora’s offer?” she wondered, a rare moment of self-doubt creeping in.
“Not if you couldn’t accept it in good conscience,” said Elsa at once. She reached out with a hand, and Anna took it. They smiled at the touch of each other’s skin. “There will be another chance to deal with Sora. You’re doing just fine, and I’ll be here with you no matter what move Russia makes. So please – come back out.”
Anna grinned. “Only if there’s cake.”
Elsa smiled slyly. “You bet.”
She slid off Anna’s table, laughing as the queen chased her out of the room and into the hallway. Arendelle Castle was replete with giggles and squeals, and the entire complex seemed brighter now that Anna had ventured back out of her room. For a few hours, the queen forgot all about tsarist Russia, Katina, and the Grand Dukes as she and Elsa went looking for Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven. They managed to catch Olaf and Sven in the drawing room, but couldn’t find Kristoff until much later in the early evening.
For the royal consort been treated to a magnificent meal of chicken, fish, salad, and creamy soup at the Nokk Club, courtesy of The Arendelle Guardian’s editor, and had drifted into a boozy afternoon stupor at the white-clothed tables, still dreaming of Anna.